MCU poker tip: Hold ’em, as big blind seldom re-raise

I frequently re-raise as the big blind when an aggressive, blind-stealing opponent raises in the small blind after everyone else folds. I don’t need a very strong hand to justify that re-raise.

That’s because, even if I’m beat by a mediocre hand, the re-raise gives me psychological leverage to add to my positional advantage. Remember, I’ll get to act last on all betting rounds.

All other circumstances

Obviously, I’ll consider raising with the biggest pairs. And you should sometimes vary your play with other hands for deception. But in most other circumstances in limit games or no-limit facing a small or moderate raise, usually you’ll make more money by waiting to see the flop. Among the many reasons for just calling, these important ones come to mind:

  1. If the small blind isn’t involved in the pot, you will have the disadvantage of acting first on all future betting rounds.
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  3. With all but aces and, perhaps, kings, the strength of your hand is not usually defined until after you see the flop. You really don’t know if it is strong or weak. Unlike stud games where your strength often changes slowly, one card at a time, the three-card flop strongly defines your hand in hold ’em. Although your cards may be strong enough for you to believe that you have a likelihood of having the best hand, that edge is usually not enough to justify a re-raise and risk facing yet another raise from a rare hand that might truly dominate you. This is especially true because of your poor position.
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  5. Why announce that you have a fairly strong hand if you don’t have to? The very tiny edge of pushing a hand you think might be slightly better than your opponents’ hands is often overwhelmed by the fact that you are giving away information unnecessarily. Of course, this show of strength can sometimes work in your favor (and you CAN use it deceptively with weak hands). But it is more likely to work against you by chasing away weak callers and the long-range profit they might supply on future betting rounds. If you just call, opponents will think you might have anything, from very weak hands to moderately strong ones or better. You keep your options open on future betting rounds, and you can fold more easily, having invested less, if the flop disappoints you.
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  7. By just calling, you’re getting a bigger discount relative to the size of the wager. If your big blind is $50 and it costs another $50 to call, that’s a 50 percent discount on the $100 it would cost if you weren’t in the blind. If you re-raise to $250, you’re only getting a 20 percent discount ($50 of the $250). The size of the discount often is an important factor.

For these reasons and others, I recommend usually not re-raising in the big blind with moderately strong hands, except when isolated with only the small blind. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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